R-3 ceremony allows students to highlight changes ahead for district

Platte County R-3 superintendent Dr. Mike Reik speaks during a virtual groundbreaking ceremony held Wednesday, June 17 at Siegrist Elementary. The program provided an update on the district’s new elementary building, which is currently under construction. Even the young students in the Platte County R-3 School District seem to understand the monumental task ahead.

During a public ceremony held Wednesday, June 17 at Siegrist Elementary, officials provided an update on the recently started $29-million construction project and gave those in attendance a look at video from the official groundbreaking held a few weeks back. More importantly, they allowed current students to present designs for their ideal classrooms, and four students — two in fourth grade and two in fifth grade — offered advice on how to keep “Pirate Nation” together as the school expands its footprint west with a new elementary building.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Fourth-grade summer school student Hayden Charles, left, reads his essay while classmate Antonia DeBiaso waits her turn.

“A Pirate Nation is important because we are still a community,” fourth grade student Hayden Charles read from his essay. “Being a pirate in a Pirate Nation means no matter what the situation is we, as a community, are still strong.

“We are still friends here in a Pirate Nation. We might make new ones, but, remember this is not goodbye, this is just a change in our school district.”

Initial grading and utilities work has already begun on the site of the future elementary school in recent weeks. The most recent “virtual groundbreaking” ceremony was held to allow public and student participation with the groundbreaking site still difficult to access

The Platte County Board of Education moved its monthly meeting back to Thursday, June 25 in an effort to have other bids for the project ready for approval. The plan calls for not only the new elementary school but light renovation to Paxton School to prepare for its annex into the high school and improvements to Pathfinder Elementary in the southern portion of the district. Rising Star Elementary — a kindergarten-only building in Platte City — will be shut down, and Siegrist and the new elementary will be transitioned into K-5 facilities.

All work is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016-17 school year.

“Students, this building is for you, and I want you to know that,” Platte County superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said during remarks on the centerpiece of the project to be funded through a tax levy increase voters unanimously approved this past April. “It’s fitting that students are here to celebrate with us because we get tied up in tax levy increases and constructing buildings and all the business of running a school district. We are doing all of that to serve our students.

“And in a quality community like the Platte County School District and the greater Platte City community, that’s what’s important.”

The new two-story elementary building to be constructed on land known as the Duncan Property east of Fourth Street/N Highway and south of Emmy Lane won’t contain all of the ideas summer school students presented in a video prepared for the virtual groundbreaking ceremony. Those items included a cotton candy machine, freezer for popsicles and cupcakes; exotic pets, playground equipment and a trampoline; action figures, dolls and a real-life butler.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Fifth-grade summer school student Jack Wall, left, reads his essay on maintaining “Pirate Nation” after the current building expansion takes place, while classmate Brylie Kovar looks on.

However, Reik offered students in attendance a chance to guess at certain figures, including Hollis and Miller Architects’ design for number of windows (119), doors (104) and lights fixtures (1,041).

“Great job guessing,” Reik said after the din of enthusiastic voices died down. “I’m not sure if you did a great job guessing or just let off a lot of steam, but that was a lot of fun.”

The essays, written by students who will not be a part of the two-elementary system, looked to the past while offering advice for the future. Even in an age of instant communication, pen pals were a popular suggestion.

But the main theme helped reinforce a common belief for the future.

“A pirate nation is a friendship,” fifth-grader Brylie Kovar wrote. “The friendship can’t be broken by the two schools being built. Our friendship is too strong to be broken!”

And there was a mixture of practical and creative, including ways to multi-task during social interaction.

“We could try a (group) recess to play with friends once more,” fifth-grader Jack Wall suggested in his essay. “If you were separated from them after the construction of the schools had been finished then you can see them at this recess. Together you and friends could build up endurance by running around. As well, you would be exercising your legs if you were running. By chance, you could be vocally exercising your voice by talking or yelling.”

While the new building will be located slightly away from the current campus center, the schools will continue to filter back into a common middle school and high school. Besides, Platte County has functioned for years with Barry School students coming from the southern portion of the district to the high school for years.

“We will also be back in high school together,” Antonia DeBiaso, a fourth grader, read from her essay. “It’s important that we stay in activities together so we can stick together and not go against each other. It helps our community grow because there’s more friendships.”